Palauan Woman Encouraged To Run In National Election

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UNDP recently held women’s mock congress, political training

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Sept. 30, 2013) – A participant at a national women’s meeting in Palau, Olympia Morei, says it has inspired her to run for local elections this year and prepare to run for the national elections in 2016.

The meeting, known as the Mock Congress for Women was organised by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and aims to encourage more women to run for parliament.

Women in the Pacific region make up just five percent of parliamentarians, the lowest proportion in the world.

Mary Baines reports:

The Parliamentary Development Specialist for the UNDP, Dyfan Jones, says the number of women in Palau’s National Congress is too low.

"DYFAN JONES: They have a bi-cameral parliament. In the lower house, there is not a single woman elected to the House of Representatives. Throughout their history, they’ve only actually ever had one woman elected to the lower house. In the senate, the upper house of the parliament, they do currently have three women sitting. But the low representation of women is a significant issue."

Mr. Jones says the Mock Congress aims to give participating women the confidence to realise their potential as leaders and stand for elections.

"DYFAN JONES: Parliament can be a very intimidating place with lots of processes, procedures, traditions, culture. So it’s really exposing a number of women who are thinking about running for parliament to the workings of parliament."

Mr. Jones says 11 women representing 10 of the 16 states of Palau took part. He says they got training on how to answer questions, raise an issue and make amendments to legislation. They also debated five draft bills currently before the real congress, on issues such as labour laws, fish exports, maternity leave and subsidising electricity for the elderly, which was broadcast live on Palau television. A participant, Olympia Morei, says the hands-on experience was invaluable.

"OLYMPIA MOREI: I especially enjoyed conducting the public hearing and getting the people who are actually doing the work, or being affected by the measures that are proposed to be laws share with us what they know, their expertise or what they feel about the measure that is being considered."

Ms. Morei says it inspired her to run for a local hamlet election in November.

"OLYMPIA MOREI: I realised that some of our people in these offices have been there for several years, and nothing has changed in our community. It has really made me realise that I cannot just sit let other people not do their work. If i want to affect a community, do something for the people, I have to run, I have to be there."

Olympia Morei says she is also preparing to run for the national elections in 2016. Another participant, Blanche Salii, who works for the Palau National Communications Corporation, says while she does not want to run for an election, she wants to help train those who do.

"BLANCHE SALII: When you watch what’s going on when they’re having their hearings and they campaign and stuff, and you think ’Oh, it’s a lot of politics’ you know? But a lot of good can be done if you’re serious about trying to help your community and people."

Palau became signatory to the Convention of the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women in 2011. That year, 14 women participated in the first Mock Congress for Women in Palau - one of which has gone on to be the Minister for Community and Cultural Affairs. The Mock Congress for Women has also held events in Papua New Guinea, Kiribati and the Marshall Islands, and later this year, will be holding a similar event in Tonga.

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